Society for the Study of Human Development

Webinar Recording Available: Three’s a Crowd: Developmental Research, Social Justice, and NHST

The recent Research in Human Development webinar is available for members: Three’s a Crowd: Developmental Research, Social Justice, and Null Hypothesis Significance Testing.

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This special issue expands upon the ideas presented by Little (2015) and places a special emphasis on the social justice aspects of the ongoing controversy surrounding Null Hypothesis Significance Testing (NHST). Although we continuously advocate for a view of scientific research as social justice practice, the recent growth of the controversy surrounding NHST makes this topic an especially timely focus for the current issue. NHST is a ubiquitous practice that is nonetheless rife with opportunities for unanticipated contamination of research findings. Developmental science can certainly impact policy decisions, so any agent that contaminates the conclusions of that science is a vector for the transmission of social injustice. We suggest that NHST is often just such a vector. The ubiquity of statistical significance as the benchmark for publication in the social sciences has been a leading contributor to the recently popularized “file drawer problem” and the resulting “crisis of replication” that is plaguing psychology and other areas of bio-medical research. The alternatives to NHST that we propose in this issue will not fully resolve the crisis of replication or eliminate the file drawer problem, but they can go a long way towards each of these goals by rooting scientific inference in a set of criteria that is more intuitive and nuanced than a simple p-value based decision rule. This special issue is comprised of five papers contributed by authors from across the globe. Each paper addresses a different facet of the NHST controversy and/or the social justice implications of methodology in developmental science. Rather than simple criticism, the focus of each paper is on providing recommended alternatives to NHST and poor methodological practices.


Todd Little, Texas Tech University

Kyle Lang, Tilburg University

Mariëlle Zondervan-Zwijnenburg, Utrecht University

Matt Williams, Massey University

Jennifer Urban Brown, Montclair State University

Those who are interested in reading the complete published articles can find them in the upcoming issue of Research in Human Development, 14(4).